May 13, 2024

Update on the Rowland Hall Encampment

Dear Campus Community,

The situation at Rowland Hall has not changed over the past week.

Students have said that they will not rejoin conversations with the university until we end normal administrative enforcement of university policies. As I noted previously, we cannot selectively waive our rules against encampments (or other relevant policies) for this situation and not other situations. Such selective enforcement is unlawful. Moreover, a decision to abandon enforcement of our policies would effectively permit any group of people – campus affiliates or otherwise – to come onto campus and establish an encampment for any reason, without consequences. Setting such a precedent would create ongoing threats to the safety of our community and our ability to do our important work.

However, as we have informed our students, the outcomes of conduct proceedings depend on factors such as the severity of the violation, the intention to engage in more misconduct or not, and the impact of one’s activities on others. Students who proactively contact Student Affairs as soon as possible to arrange for their departure from the encampment will find their cooperation reflected in the outcome of their cases.

Moreover, far from engaging in the mere expression of anti-war sentiments, encampment protestors have focused most of their demands on actions that would require the university to violate the academic freedom rights of faculty, the free speech rights of faculty and fellow students, and the civil rights of many of our Jewish students. While there is a fine tradition of anti-war protests, it is important that one not confuse that legacy with efforts to intimidate and silence students with whom they disagree and or to diminish the rights of our Jewish students at their university.

I have heard from some that I should welcome the efforts of these students given my commitment to the protection of free speech and academic freedom. Indeed, I have consistently upheld the right for these students and their supporters to express their views. There have been many lawful protests, events, and messages where their positions have been freely expressed without any effort at censorship or punishment. But everybody understands that free speech does not grant the right to speak in any manner you want at any time you want, or in violation of laws and rules while claiming their violations should be exempt from sanctions. To be clear, my concerns are not with their speech, but their violations of important policies and with their assault on the free speech and academic freedom of others.

Some in our community have expressed support for the encampment, standing with our students. Of course, the well-being of our students is crucial. Accordingly, we have scores of dedicated employees working every day, diverting their time away from their normal responsibilities, to help maintain a safe campus environment and the well-being of the encampers. However, those who are committed to standing by our students should also stand for and support the students (and employees) who are being targeted by the protesters. And, of course, we must not forget our support and commitment to the tens of thousands of other students who worked diligently to get into UCI and want to pursue their dreams of a great college education free from concerns of larger-scale disruptions or disorder of the sort we have seen on too many other campuses.

Let us also stand by the principle that members of a university community must be willing to tolerate the fact that other members may hold views they disagree with or even despise.

We remain eager and willing to talk to the encampers so that we can arrive at a peaceful conclusion of this situation and prevent the protesters from having to experience the most serious consequences for their actions.

As always, I urge all members of the campus community to act in ways that maintain the peace of the campus and our ability to continue with our work, and I urge members of the broader public to take no steps that threaten the safety or well-being of our students, faculty, and staff.

Fiat Lux,

Chancellor Howard Gillman